New research into the use of digital technology in the UK legal sector has revealed that seven out of 10 consumers would choose a ‘lawbot,’ a customer facing, automated online system to handle their legal affairs over a human lawyer because it is cheaper, faster and simpler. A UK study of 1000 consumers and 500 law firms, by Olive Communications, a managed cloud communications provider working with law firms, found 19 per cent found lawbots more convenient with half those surveyed (56 per cent) even prepared to pay more for such a service if it means a faster resolution.
Research also found that one in three (34 per cent) consumers would also like their lawyers to offer digital services such as video conferencing, chat and Instant Messaging (IM), when liaising with their lawyers. Yet, 66 per cent of consumers said such services have never been made available. On the other side, over half (66 per cent) of UK law firms worry that failure to keep up with digital advances will affect productivity, billable time and client response rates, with SMEs (61 per cent) slightly less concerned than larger law firms (71 per cent). Half of all law firms (49 per cent) also worry about falling behind the competition. Commenting, Martin Flick, CEO at Olive says: ‘Today’s busy, always on and mobile first consumer wants to buy goods and services, and communicate with sellers whenever, wherever and however they choose. Increasingly this is through digital interaction.’ He added: 'Consumers want more control over their legal affairs with sometimes, little or no human intervention, and with the speed, efficiency and security that multiple channel web-based communications offers.’
Consumers are keen to embrace new online court services. Insurance claims (46 per cent), financial disputes (23 per cent) and tax appeals (23 per cent) were the three legal services that consumers most wanted to be digitalised according to Olive’s findings. The survey states 19 per cent would also like access to a purely online, automated residential property and conveyancing legal service with no intervention from a human lawyer, whilst 14 per cent would happily use a ‘lawbot’ to make a divorce application, and 11 per cent are even happy to use an online automated system to make an unfair dismissal claim against their ex-employer. Although used internally at law firms, the report finds few firms are extending the use of technologies such as web conferencing, chat and cloud file sharing externally to enhance the client experience and add value to their services. Despite business and bottom line benefits, 39 per cent of firms worry about data breaches and cyber-attacks when using online automated systems and web-based communications, while 27 percent are concerned about contravening GDPR, and 40 percent fear disclosure failings and regulations around custodian driven data collection.